Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Year in Review

It is that time of the year us humans reflect on our lives over the past year, what we accomplished, what we failed, and what we learned. For Zachary and I, it has been a year of change.

If someone told me a year ago that we wouldn't be dairy farming today, I would have found that hard to believe. We had a dream that we could be one of those small dairy farms that could survive in today's dairy industry, where factory farms and volume are favored. Perhaps if we were farming longer before the milk market crashed, we would have had a better base to stand on? Maybe if we were better farmers? Maybe if we were better savers? The downturn caught us at a very vulnerable time. By February, we knew we were in trouble. The sudden sharp decline in milk price took the whole industry by surprise at the end of December. The price was at 30 year lows. Suddenly we had a business on our hands hemorrhaging red, bleeding us dry. We were so stressed out. (A funny side note, Zachary and I both found our first gray hairs during that time. Well earned ones.) We were worried not only the financial implications for ourselves, but also for my parents, for which we were slowly purchasing the livestock, feed, and leasing the equipment and buildings. Our fledgling dairy adventure was first theirs, one they invested their lives into for over 40 years, and before that, my Grandparents. And here we are crashing and burning the legacy. One option was to bargain with the banks and the government for operating loans to cover our growing shortfalls. Most farmers do that, borrow to cover the hard times, and hopefully pay it off during the good times. Hopefully pay it off. The thought of borrowing thousands of dollars to cover possibly a year or more of operating made our stomachs turn. How would we ever pay that back? With our little operation? We have heard many horror stories of farms collapsing under massive debt. We talked with my parents, discussed our options and chose option 2. Sell out. They assured us we were making the right choice. Having them be so supportive made the process less painful. By the end of February, we were calling cattle jockeys and auctioneers for the dairy herd. The last of the milking herd left in the first week in March and we had our cattle sale in mid-March. The price the cattle sold for was very low. With the milk market bad, the prices for dairy cows was also bad. We felt then, and we still believe now, it was right to take our losses then instead of a much larger one down the road. It was few strange weeks after the dairy herd left. Zachary and I didn't know what to do with ourselves during "chore time" night and morning. 5am and 5pm always meant it was time to milk cows.

The remaining young stock stayed on the farm. Today we have 8 steers and heifers. My parents own a few dozen more and my brother Mike is now purchasing calves and keeping them on the farm. It's a little community beef farm. Mike is the main caretaker for all the cattle. It is nice to see the farm buildings still put to good use. The other main strangeness on the farm is the lack of crop making. We all were used to having our spring, summer, and fall revolve around planting, maintaining, and harvesting crops. My parents chose to rent the farm's cropland to area farmers this year, as we didn't need all the land for our smaller group of livestock.

After the we sold the dairy herd, Zachary was out of a job. With the collapse of our business, we have a lot of bills. He found a job at a local factory, but soon after starting, he realized the stress on his back wasn't worth it. Over most the summer he keep busy with side projects, really taking advantage of his building skills. The end of August he found a position at a local auto parts store and been working ever since. He really enjoys his job.

Our kitchen remodel is never ending. Another "if we only knew what would happen" situations. We started the main part of it last fall 2008. But 2009 proved to be a dry year for remodeling funding, as we are and have been focused on bills and essentials. We are slowly putting it back together as we can. Some people think we are nuts living with a semi-functional kitchen for a long time, but believe me it is not by choice. But we are enjoying working together on it and making it our kitchen, reflecting our style. We are patient people, we'll get there.

We learned some hard lessons this year, but we had some great adventures too. We are learning to simplify our lives, cutting out the excess. We are glad we don't have the stress of struggling with our business. Zachary and I are enjoying our new "civilian life". We have our health and each other and really that is all that matters to us.

Happy New Year to you all!

Saturday, December 26, 2009


A icy view out our kitchen window on Christmas Eve. The weather in the last couple days seem to change by the hour, starting with snow, then freezing rain, then rain, then sleet, and then snow, and then repeat. Luckily we didn't have to travel anywhere. Zachary and I had a nice relaxing Christmas to ourselves at home. It was very enjoyable to veg out for two days and just be with one another with no schedules, plans, or commitments.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Last night for dinner I made Tuna Croquettes. This is another Alton Brown recipe that we love to put together. There is something about his show, Good Eats, that makes you want to try foods outside your normal routine. Neither of us ate much tuna before, but after discovering this one, we realize it can be tasty too. The nice thing about this recipe it is doesn't taste "tuna-y" and it is easy to make.
This last batch I made, after starting to assemble the mix, I realized I was short a few ingredients. It sounded so good, I decided to forge ahead. The onions I dropped as I had none. My lemon I had was bad, so that was out too. I didn't want the croquettes to be flat in the flavor, so I added a few chopped leaves from the lemon balm plant. And, don't cringe, but I also sprinkled in a dash of lemonade mix, to boost the lemon flavor. (Sorry Mr. Brown!)
To my relief, they still turned out delicious.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


We saw the movie Avatar yesterday. It was pretty good. While the general story line wasn't anything too original, the portrayal, scenery, and the characters were really unique. The CG is also excellent. The movie is a little over 2.5 hours long, which I usually don't like long movies, but this film didn't feel that long.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Well the storm blew through and we ended up with about a foot of snow on the ground. Heck of a first snow for us. Wednesday morning greeted us with blowing, drifting, and un-plowed roads. We passed a stuck semi and a pickup in the middle of the road on our way to work. Luckily our car was feeling sure-footed that day.
So the past few days we have been digging out. My shoveling muscles are sore.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Zachary and I are both off from work today and this morning we were busy with getting the chickens and sheep ready for the snowy winter ahead. Nothing like trying to get things done outside, as the first flakes of an incoming snowstorm is blowing in...

Our young hens were fascinated by the white stuff, and the commotion we were causing in and around their coop. We walled their coop with hay bales on the outside to cut down on drafts.

The sheep quarters we inspected as well. They have plenty of clean fluffy bedding to stay warm in. Zachary made a strange discovery in the sheep building. He found a dead red fox. It was one of the ones that we have been seeing around the farm. It was 3 legged, as one of it's paws were missing. The fox has been lurking around the chickens lately. We don't know why it died in the sheep building. Maybe it was sick? Or maybe the sheep attacked it? Very strange. I guess it is one less fox to bother our chickens. I would put up a picture of it, but I am sure not everyone would like to look at a dead animal.

Zachary and I get our weather from NOAA. We have a joke amongst ourselves about the little pictures they use to describe the weather forecast. Our favorite and most scary picture is Thursday's. We called it the "huddled mass". When that picture pops up, you don't need to bother to look at the description.

And to update our snow storm moving in, it now a blizzard, with 8-14 inches expected and gusts up to 45mph. It should be an interesting drive into work tomorrow morning...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ready or not

The forecast for our area is bringing us about 8 inches of snow Tuesday/Wednesday. It will be our first blast of winter for the season. We'll see how this forecast delivers. We are looking forward to the transition to whiteness.